The Pallilog

Amid more cancellations, there is hope for baseball

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So, the general target for this column is 800 words in length. 788 words to go! And so begins the month of May. 777 words to go!

Two of the great events of the baseball summer were inevitably canceled this week. The National Baseball Hall of Fame's July induction ceremony for the class of 2020 will be rolled into the Class of 2021. Much worse, the Little League World Series scheduled for August, wiped out. Given the times, any ray of optimism on a number of fronts is a good thing so long as it's not laughably pie in the sky optimistic. There was some glimmer this week about the baseball season beginning by the end of June. USA Today's outstanding baseball writer/reporter Bob Nightengale broke the story that the emerging possibility would have a start date no later than July 2, with the 30 MLB teams broken into three 10 team divisions with all clubs using their home ballparks. The Astros would play in the West with the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. Those would be the only nine opponents the Astros would face in a regular season that would run 100+ games from start to a late October finish ahead of whatever postseason plan including neutral sites was settled upon for November and perhaps even early December. Sign us up!

Justin Verlander said Thursday he's recovering very well from his dual injuries (groin surgery and lat). Reminder that while they're absolutely lousy circumstances under which to glean a silver lining, a delayed start to the season means the Astros will have Verlander ready to go when (I refuse to consider if) it gets here. An on time start, and Verlander probably misses the first two months plus.

If you missed it early this week, the Astros were ousted in the quarterfinals of MLB.com's all-time franchise best simulation tournament. The Yankees beat the Astros in seven games. The Astros blew Game 7 after holding a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning. Billy Wagner gave up a tying homer to Mickey Mantle in the bottom of the ninth, then in the 12th Yogi Berra took Brad Lidge deep to win the series. I just typed a paragraph with details of a computer-played baseball game. I now pause to sob quietly for a few seconds.

A Big Deal 

Congrats to agent-less 25 year old Texans' left tackle Laremy Tunsil for smoking Bill O'Brien in their contract negotiations. Three years 66 million dollars is absurd. O'Brien continues to rack up "you have to be kidding me" GM decisions. Tunsil is a very good player. He is not the second coming of Anthony Munoz. For Tunsil to get four million more per year than the prior richest offensive tackle deal? Another way of framing Tunsil's 22 mil per season: that's a million dollars for each penalty he committed last season, plus a two million dollar bonus.

As much as one can reasonably judge a draft at the time of that draft, Bill O'Brien did fine with the Texans' top two choices. The loss of D.J. Reader left a big hole in the defensive line interior. Second round pick Ross Blacklock out of Elkins High School and TCU just needs to validate his selection. It's also not inconceivable that J.J. Watt gets cut after the 2020 season and Blacklock kicks out to defensive end. And before anyone goes screaming "Heretic!" at the suggestion of Watt being on the spot this year, he's missed at least half the regular season three of the last four seasons and is 31 years old. Watt's 15 and a half million dollar salary for the coming season is safe, but another major injury before he turns 32 while scheduled to make 17 and a half million in 2021?

Third round choice linebacker Jonathan Greenard gets mixed reviews, but the Texans needed another edge rusher possibility and I'm good with taking a guy named first team All-Southeastern Conference.

The Dallas Cowboys don't retire numbers, so their issuing number 88 to first round pick CeeDee Lamb is noteworthy. The wide receiver out of Oklahoma takes his spot in a Cowboys' number 88 lineage that includes Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant. The Cowboys may now have three different receivers (Lamb, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup) who a majority of NFL teams might take over any Texans' receiver. It's not that the Texans' corps stinks.

Buzzer Beaters

1. NBC is airing a mythical Kentucky Derby Saturday with the field comprised of the 13 Triple Crown winners. Secretariat obviously should win. Citation to place. Or Lucky Dan. Kudos if you get the reference. Affirmed to show. 2. Mint julep may be the most disgusting cocktail I've ever sipped. 3. Best "May" athletes: Bronze-Lee May Silver-Don Maynard Gold-Willie Mays

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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